Meaning of “actually” in the English Dictionary

"actually" in British English

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uk /ˈæk.tʃu.ə.li/ us /ˈæk.tʃu.ə.li/

actually adverb (IN FACT)

A2 in fact or really:

I didn't actually see her - I just heard her voice.
So what actually happened?

More examples

  • There seems to be some confusion over who is actually giving the talk.
  • I didn't actually want any more dessert, but Julia forced it on me .
  • I looked through the window, but I didn't actually go in.
  • They suspected that she'd killed him but they could never actually prove that it was her.
  • It's unclear what actually happened that night.

actually adverb (SURPRISE)

B1 used in sentences in which there is information that is in some way surprising or the opposite of what most people would expect:

I didn't like him at first, but in the end I actually got quite fond of him.
I'm one of the few people who doesn't actually like champagne.
humorous Don't tell me he actually paid for you!

More examples

  • It really gets me the way we're expected to actually laugh at his pathetic jokes!
  • You actually like modern jazz, do you? Each to their own.
  • I didn't actually want any more dessert, but Julia forced it on me.
  • Peter might look a bit fierce, but actually he's fairly harmless.
  • She appears to actually like the man, which I find incredible.

actually adverb (SAYING NO)

B2 used as a way of making a sentence slightly more polite, for example when you are expressing an opposing opinion, correcting what someone else has said, or refusing an offer:

"Alexander looks like he'd be good at sports." "Actually, he's not."
Actually, Gavin, it was Tuesday of last week, not Wednesday.
"Do you mind if I smoke?" "Well, actually, I'd rather you didn't."

More examples

  • I wouldn't mind something to eat, actually.
  • I'd like a cup of coffee, please - actually, on second thoughts, I'll have a beer.
  • "Did your American friends enjoy their stay?" "Yes. Actually, they're Canadian."
  • "Mark's coming today to look at the books." "Actually, it's tomorrow."
  • "You must be exhausted after that long journey." "Actually, I feel fine."

(Definition of “actually” from the Cambridge Advanced Learner’s Dictionary & Thesaurus © Cambridge University Press)

"actually" in American English

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actuallyadverb [ not gradable ]

us /ˈæk·tʃu·ə·li/

used to say that something is true, esp. when the true situation may not be known:

We actually had a hard time moving the sofa.

Actually is often used when you want to emphasize that something is surprising or unusual:

He actually expected me to pay for his dinner.

(Definition of “actually” from the Cambridge Academic Content Dictionary © Cambridge University Press)